The Lister List

Folding cranes

Dear Fellow Listers,

I hope that I may be forgiven for adding to this discussion, one of the  longest in recent times. I have followed it with great interest and I think  I may be able to add more information.

I vividly remember the actual time that I heard the first announcement of  the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on 6th August, 1945. I was then  aged 15. Of course there was general rejoicing about the possibility that it  might bring an end to the War sooner than we expected. But I also remember  the great horror and fear with which I received the news. I could only  think, with foreboding of what the future might bring.

The fiftieth anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima took place in August  1995 and it was marked in many ways. Few of them were of celebration. I  decided to mark the occasion by writing an article for Origami-L. It turned  out better than I expected and I posted it to the List. It is now included  in the Lister List on the British Origami Society Web site. It does not  appear under the name of Sadako, but under "The Sacred Cranes" and it sets  the story in a wider context. The Index Page of Lister List is at  <> The particular article about the Sacred Cranes, with the account of Sadako  is at <> Do  have a look. The size of the text is a little small and you may like to copy  the article to another program where you can enlarge the size of the  letters..

I first learnt about Sadako many years before this. I came across it in a  copy taken from a Methodist newspaper. It was quite short and without many  of the further details and embellishments that have since been added. It was  printed long before Eleanor Coerr's book was published, so it has none of  her additions, fanciful or otherwise. I remember that the article mentioned  that Sadako died after she had completed 644 cranes and I have tended to  stick with this version of the story.

By the time I came to write my article I had acquired Eleanoor Coerr's book  some years earlier and I am sure I included some details from her book in my  article. But I was fully aware that she had dressed up the story and it  could not be relied on for being historically accurate in all its details.  Unfortunately, at the moment I am unable to find her book, to refresh my  mind about what she wrote. (That, in fact is a frequent annoying experience  I have these days!)

But my article also includes information on Cranes which I obtained from an  excellent book with the title, "The Japanese Crane, Bird of Happinesss" by  D. Britten and T. Hayashida. Unfortunately, while I know where it is, I am  unable to get to it because it is hiding behind piles of books, for which  there is no room on my shelves. But it is a splendid book iin every way,  with beautiful photographs of cranes and many accounts of their activities.  Previously, in connection with my entirely separate researches into mazes  and labyrinths I had also studied the story of Theseus and the Minotaur and  had gained much information about the Crane Dance in ancient Greece.(for  which I obtained photocopies of several rare articles from academic  libraries.).

I also obtained separate information about the Peace Park in Hiroshima and  the commemorations that take place there on the anniversaries of the  bombing.

My article contains an account of Sadako's life and her folding of paper  cranes. It goes on to tell the story of what happened after her death with  the erection of a statue to her in the Peace Park and the spontaneous  tradition for people, first from Japan and then from other countries, to  fold 1000 cranes and send them to be placed round the statue.

I, myself, am certain that the crane was originally a symbol of long life.  For instance, cranes would be (and still are) folded to give to brides and  grooms to wish them a long life together. The wish is reinforced because in  nature, cranes mate for life. Cranes were folded sick people to wish them  long life and consequently a recovery from their illness.. But cranes were  not traditionally a symbol of peace. It was because of Sadako that cranes  also came to be a symbol of peace. This may have been Sadako's own concept,  for one suggestion is that as she folded each crane she came to say "I will  write Peace on your wings and you will fly all over the world". Or it may  have arisen subsequently because her death was an indirect result of war and  in her memory people followed her example by folding cranes They then sent  them to the Peace Park to be placed round her statue. It is a typical  example of the way symbolism evolves.

Retrospectively, I look upon this article with affection and I confess that  even though I wrote it myself and all the details may not entirely be  historically accurate, I still feel moved when I read through it and  recall, once again the story of Sadako and the Sacred Cranes.

David Lister

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